Students are probably the world’s luckiest lot. They enjoy privileges from half-price discounts to class suspensions. Most are supported by parental allowances. Lasallians, too, are luckier than some. Being able to choose their preferred class hours is an enviable student right — that is, the right to avoid ungodly 8 AM classes and familiar “terror professors.”
But terror professors and tips on how to avoid them are yesterday’s talk. We begin a new conversation by turning tables: how do professors handle “terror classes”? In what ways is a class a nightmare? How have they survived them? Beyond the confines of a classroom, it is easy to forget that professors are living and breathing entities as well – with fears to share and stories to tell.
“Terror is relative, anyway. Different students have different perceptions,” says Professor X, quite accurately. Generally, however, terror in the term “terror professors” may come in the form of collective and unreasonable failure, or disempowering way of teaching.
To Prof. Johann Espiritu, a faculty member of the DLSU Literature department, a ‘terror class’ may have two faces. “Ito yung class na may sense of fear ka kapag pinapasukan mo siya. It could be in a good way or in a bad way. Bad way siguro dahil talagang salbahe yung klase… The class practically does everything to upset you… Or pwede rin in a good way. Terror class because the class is so brilliant.”
In these classes lie the students responsible for this two-faced terror. Most common are the students bent on being bad. As an art professor, Espiritu talks about a specific set of students with an undesirable habit of barring possibilities of knowledge due to personal disbelief. These are what he tags as ‘art atheists.’
“Ito yung example ng tao na hindi siya naniniwala sa tinuturo mo just because [s/he] hates art,” shares Espiritu. Other professors may not particularly have these art non-believers but there are certainly students who strive to keep professors from helping students learn. These students who refuse to be taught are by themselves harbingers of terror and helplessness — the basic ingredient to a bad terror class.
Students to pick
The Facebook group, DLSU Profs to Pick, is used by students as a guide for selecting classes. Unbeknownst to them, however, are the watchful eyes of teachers wanting to know how they are perceived. There are even a few who get obsessed with it. One professor shares an account of a colleague who received a comment about not combing his/her hair. A few days later, that colleague came to work with a new hairdo.
It isn’t nice, shares Chito Abueg, a professor from the School of Economics, because it dictates how the teacher should be. He even jokes about the existence of a DLSU Students to Pick and how nice it would be if teachers could choose their class lists.
This inability to choose the students they wish to teach suggests the difficulty educators have to face. But the thrill in teaching unfamiliar faces and tapping student potentials fuels professors to overcome their limits.
Abueg says that teachers are not so different from students. Less work and easy classes are preferred, and it is a blessing when students can pick up easily and are eager to recite. On student-related pet peeves, he insists that he gets annoyed when students act like they know the subject better than he does.
What most students fail to realize, however, is that students can terrorize professors as well. Abueg mentions that the first verbal blow from the students is always the hardest, yet it is inevitable that there will exist succeeding ones. It remains a challenge for professors to keep their calm and stay level-headed, even when things spiral out of their control.
“In any classroom, there will always exist at least one student who, regardless of your deeds, will never seem to appreciate you. It becomes even worse when the student dislikes you as a person and not as a teacher. That is normal – something to be expected, especially in a setting where interaction exists between the teacher and the student.” Indeed, as Sir Abueg notes, the undertones in a typical teacher-student relationship are delicate, and yet, crucial.
Professors have come to perfect the art of surviving terror classes, both the good and bad. Professors’ way of survival may range from something as predictable as changing teaching methods and approaches to fit a certain college, to something as personal as private rituals.
“Very crucial yung ten-minute period between classes kasi doon ko ni-psyche up ang sarili ko. Doon ako bumabalik sa kung ano yung character ko for example sa class na ‘to… I stop by the restroom, I face the mirror,” shares Espiritu. What he does is not entirely strange, if not already too familiar: students do the same, using that short break to return to their senses and prepare for their next class.
Another handy tactic is preparation. Abueg shares that preparation is key to avoid slip-ups. Professor X supports this tactic as well: “You do not want them to find out that you are ineffective as a professor; you do not want them to hate the subject even more than they originally do.” Espiritu also emphasizes the significance of this tactic to prevent failures of different sorts. The ‘fail’ may be as light as a bad delivery of a beaten joke, or as grave as getting corrected by a student.
While it is true that the notion pertaining to “teachers as monopolies of knowledge is already defunct”, Abueg insists that there is as much to learn from students, as there are from fellow teachers. It has to be accepted that “the differences between teachers and students must create an avenue for learning.”
A must, however, is the consistency in word and deed exhibited by professors, particularly upon students who tend to misbehave. Abueg notes that students can and will compare themselves with each other; the best thing to do, in order to soften the repercussions, would be to avoid biases and subjective treatment. As such, the case rests upon the professor’s hands.
But the golden rule is this: knowing a class’ character is just as crucial as preparing the night before. “Ang cliche man sabihin, sa unti-unti mong pagkilala sa kanila, unti-unti mo rin makikilala how you become in the process of meeting them,” continues Espiritu. Despite confidently stating he does his job well, Professor X still constantly reflects on students’ comments and rebrands himself accordingly. The knowledge of oneself then becomes a significant influence on one’s way of surviving, more so teaching and leading souls.
The reward and the sense of fulfillment from surviving a terror class comes in being able to become a better teacher and individual in the process of adapting and carrying out his/her duties.
“Every day is a challenge,” says Espiritu. Easily, classes are too. These are challenges to be conquered. Students have it easier in being able to cheat their way by avoiding classes with terror professors. Professors, on the other hand, play it fairer and with more dignity: they face terror classes until a term lasts, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. But always, always still teaching on.